Rufus Wainwright: Unfollow the Rules review – High point in songwriter’s career
Unfollow the Rules
Singer / Songwriter
For his first pop-oriented album since 2012’s Out of the Game, Rufus Wainwright sets the bar high – the songs here constitute a high point in the songwriter’s career, and swing him back to when he started as a lithe songwriter and nimble singer.
Although prophetically titled, Out of the Game (which was followed by albums that dived into opera, 2015’s Prima Donna, and Shakespeare sonnets, 2016’s Take All My Loves) didn’t foresee lack of interest from the fanbase.
While his non-pop work was cautiously received (Wainwright has previously talked about long days occupied by “battling with choruses, conductors and critics”) they were nevertheless intriguing deviations, but Unfollow the Rules returns to basics.
If there are stylistic connections here with past work it’s with his early Noughties albums Poses (2001), Want One (2003) and Want Two (2004). The lyrics, however, are expressed by a person who has lived several lives since then: a father, a gay man, a bereaved son, a husband. Another strong influence is Laurel Canyon, the Los Angeles community where he now lives and which acclaimed songwriting tradition he has immersed himself in.
The effortlessly melodic end result is equal parts anguish, witty and wise. With a couple of extravagant exceptions, the songs are structurally lean, yet everything takes flight, and that is truly a sound to behold.